Volunteers play a major role in many of the local non-profit agencies. In many cases, they are the backbone of the organization and serve as the hands and feet of delivering a wide range of services to community members of all walks of life.
“We have so many talented and dedicated volunteers at Empowered Pathways who help us with mediation and arbitration through our Alternative Dispute Resolution Center,” said Stephanie Eghigian, Empowered Pathway’s Executive Director.
“Our volunteers also assist with providing training and mentoring for clients in our Women’s Employment and Resource Center (WERC) program. Our Surrogate Decision-Making Committee (SDMC) lives and breathes
because of the volunteers who serve on hearing panels to make decisions on medical and dental treatments and procedures as well as end-of-life decisions for individuals with disabilities.”
SDMC is an alternative to the NYS court system that expedites non-emergency healthcare procedures. Hearings are requested when an individual is unable to make a determination for themselves and there are no immediate family members to make decisions on their behalf.
A four-member panel is convened to review each case individually, hear testimony from the individual’s healthcare provider, discuss the available options, and determine a course of action.
A volunteer panel is comprised of a licensed healthcare professional, an attorney, an individual experienced with disabilities, and an advocate for individuals with disabilities.
“Becoming a volunteer panelist is a great way to give back to the community,” Eghigian added.“It’s a direct service where you can see the results of your efforts, how you’ve helped someone in need. It’s also a short, finite amount of time. Each hearing is generally 30 minutes or less in addition to the 15-30 minutes it takes to review the case details.”
Volunteer panelists determine when and how many cases they wish to participate in, the geographic area where they serve,
and whether they prefer to participate in virtual hearings or in-person hearings.
According to Eghigian, “all of our volunteers are vetted and trained through the New York State Justice Center. A prospective volunteer submits an online application and completes an online training before being referred to the local SDMC program office.”
For more information, or to submit an application, visit www.justicecenter.ny.gov/surrogate-decision-
The mission of Empowered Pathways is to help people create self-directed
solutions and move forward with their lives through education, advocacy, and
empowerment. More information and volunteer opportunities can be found at